A multi-part series of barrel proof bourbons. Because how many can you really try at one time?
First, just the facts.
The Old Rip Van Winkle brand name is owned by the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery company, but is currently produced under a joint venture agreement with Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.
While not obvious by either brand name, these two whiskeys share a common and storied history.
Flight Club has selected a 2011 bottling of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year bourbon as the 2016 End of the Year Bottle (EOYB).
A brief overview of the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year bourbon can be found here: http://www.oldripvanwinkle.com/whiskey/family-reserve-20-year/.
Maker’s Mark, January 2017, by Chris Crow
Maker’s Mark is a staple in bars and liquor stores across the country. Its dripping red wax bottle neck is distinctively recognizable. Until recently, most consumers were only familiar with Maker’s Mark’s basic expression: 90-proof wheated bourbon that is sweet, well-balanced, and great for cocktails.
Maker’s Mark, like many other producers, now carries several different expressions. These various bottles feature a higher proof and unique aging techniques to enhance the flavors people regularly associate with traditional Maker’s Mark.
Our host this month, Chris Crow, enlightened us on the Maker’s Mark process by featuring a bottle from each of the distiller’s expressions. Not only that, but we started with the pre-barreled spirit and worked our way through five other expressions.
The tasting notes for the Maker’s Mark, Maker’s Cask Strength, and Maker’s 46 are provided from the Maker’s Mark Web site. The tasting notes for bottles 5 and 6, the private select barrel picks, vary from bottle to bottle. We will supplement with our own tasting notes for these bottles later.
Now, onto the cocktails and the tasting…
Google “Booker’s” right now and you are most certain to find some rants and raves about the audacity of Jim Beam to raise prices. You will find slams on Booker’s and promises to never buy it again.
I hear you. I want to be able to buy the same great bourbon at the same old prices, just like my millions of other friends and growing.
But I’m not here to complain about prices. And I’m not here to defend them either. Instead, I’m here to defend some really good bourbon: Booker’s. It’s wonderful stuff at $75 (yes I said it) and probably good stuff at $100 (yep, quote me on that). It’s unbelievable stuff at $50 (I really don’t hear anyone disagreeing).
Ask Jim Beam, and they will likely tell you we are exactly the problem. Our demand is increasing, yet we want to ignore the effects of that demand on suppliers. I have a theory, or maybe just a concern. If demand has truly increased for a product, it would be natural for a supplier to try to keep up with that demand by taking some slight corners on production. If you can eek out just a few more bottles by reducing age, or by grabbing some less than perfect barrels for a blend, then you can stretch your supply, meet demand, and make a profit. But at some point isn’t a consumer benefited by a reduction of supply, and increase in quality standards, and the resulting upshift in pricing? Feel free to debate.
So how do Booker’s batches compare over the past few years? Has quality suffered as Jim Beam sets out to satisfy demand? I set out to find out. Without hiding conclusions (or giving any credibility to my theory), I’ll simply state that I hope that Jim Beam’s business plan for Booker’s includes returning to the glory of year’s past.